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Girl Gang? Sign Me Up. An Ode To Female Friendship In The Desert

When I was seven I wanted to be a Ghostbuster. Unsurprisingly, not many of my contemporaries were having any of it, much preferring to ponce around with their Sylvanian Families whilst I sat pondering the logistics of playing both Venkman and Spengler simultaneously. (I like a challenge). Imagine my delight, then, when they announced that they were rebooting it with a female cast of comedy geniuses, poised to take on New York in some of the best boiler suits ever seen on celluloid. The mud-slinging that has come since – this week seeing the release of the latest trailer – has been slightly heartbreaking, mostly because people are up in arms that they’ve dared to remake an 80s buddy movie using only girls. (Eugh, girls! Imagine!).Olivia Phillips Girl Gang

Now, I no longer harbour dreams of donning a Proton Pack, as handy as that may occasionally be, but I do think that life in Dubai can often feel like one big female buddy movie – and that I’ve come up against a fair bit of flak for how I’ve chosen to portray that to the outside world. “Ooh, you girls love a line-up, don’t you?”, I was once asked by a particularly sarcastic pal back in the UK, after I’d uploaded a picture of me and six girlfriends outside Frankie’s in JBR. “What’s happened to you?!”, another one Whatsapped me when I’d posted ‘These ones!’ and a hearts-for-eyes emoji on Instagram. “If you start hashtagging ‘squad goals’ you are dead to me, Phillips. Dead.”

Admittedly, it might not have been my most eloquent Insta-moment. And maybe it’s not very ‘cool’ to brag in such a shamelessly saccharine way. We’re British after all; it’s our job to be mostly underwhelmed. But I don’t care. I love my girl gang. I’m proud to have them, and to show them off, knowing that, without them, my life here would be significantly less emoji-filled – both literally and metaphorically. And in a town where few of us have our families or oldest friends to lean on, I cannot overstate the wonderful, life-affirming, crisis-averting importance of having them around.

Research backs it up, too. There’s been hundreds of studies done on the very real health benefits of female friendship, concluding that the time we spend together releases oxytocin – a depression and stress-killer which also makes you feel calm and warm. Combine that with many a free ladies’ night drink and it’s little wonder I feel the need to enthusiastically pepper everything with hearts. It’s science. In comparison to men, we’re more open with each other, more vulnerable, supporting the argument that it’s why we live longer. Sorry, lads. Jane Fonda put it perfectly in a TED talk she did last year with long-time friend Lily Tomlin, “Men’s friendships are side-by-side, whilst women’s are face-to-face,” she said. “I exist because I have my women friends.” I feel her. Especially because, prior to moving here, my life in London was vastly different.

Perhaps it was the longer office hours, or the dread of going out in the rain, but I found myself with a rather diminished crew; friends scattered all over the home counties, banished there by some kind of affordable-housing, Zone 18 Overlord. In comparison, we live in a country brimming with ex-pats (who, incidentally, all seem to live in the Marina), keen as mustard and all in the market for new friends. It also attracts a certain type of soul – social, adventurous, likeminded – that makes it easier to find a connection. When you’re putting roots down in a new city, that respite and emotional support you get from a strong group of female friends is vital. You need them not only for the belly laughs and the brunches, but for the homesickness and the heartbreaks. For the debates, the career advice, the sisterhood and the solidarity. We’re all in it together out here, all doing something pretty brave. There’s camaraderie in that, which may or may not come across in my pithy footnotes on Instagram. But next time I write ‘These ones’, smiley face, under a picture of my girl gang, you’ll know it’s shorthand for all of the above.

The Simple Life

Olivia Phillips Armani Exchange

Dress: Armani Exchange, Trainers: Adidas, Sunglasses: Salvatore Ferragamo

Even as a fashion editor, there are some brands which can sometimes escape you. Some brands which, through no fault of their own, fly a little lower under the radar than they deserve, and really need a bit of flag-waving and a hearty pat on the back. Armani Exchange is one such store, and not because it’s unlikely to be killing it in the sales department, but because, magazine-wise, it’s one of those shopping stalwarts that can get overlooked in the shouty, shiny fashion landscape in which we find ourselves currently residing. Back in the real world, however, it’s a never-ending pool of real-world clothing. Allow me to me elucidate…

Dress and bag: both Armani Exchange, Sunglasses: Salvatore Ferragamo, Earrings: Maria Black at dulaab.com

Dress and bag: both Armani Exchange, Sunglasses: Salvatore Ferragamo, Earrings: Maria Black at dulaab.com

In true Armani style (its older sister), AX is defined by its quiet elegance and dedication to quality, but with a really affordable price point which allows it to inhabit a magical land we fashion folk like to call ‘Contemporary’ or ‘Bridge’. Think Reiss, Whistles and Karen Millen – even your Sandros, Majes and Kooples are part of that clever club that we can’t get enough of. I remember when you could furnish yourself with an It Bag for £700; £500 if you were a Mulberry girl. *gazes nostalgically into the middle-distance* No such luck these days – you’re lucky if you can walk away with change from a grand and a half. Enter legions of Contemporary brands which perfectly reflect the philosophy of many a modern-day shopper. Hands up who wants to pay £600 for a top? Anyone? Anyone?? Didn’t think so. Add this to still-pervading normcore movement (the cult product of S/S16 was a DHL T-shirt. Just saying) and the genuine need for simple, chic clothing you actually want to put on your back, not just prance around in for an Instagram photo before flinging off 20 minutes later because it turns out sequins are really bloody itchy. AX always knew they were a winner – this is just a gentle, whisper of a reminder. Nothing too aggressive, though. That’s really not their style.

Olivia Phillips Armani Exchange

Bag: Armani Exchange, Bracelets: Monica Vinader at Boutique 1 and La Marquise

Olivia Phillips Armani ExchangeOlivia Phillips Armani Exchange

Armani Exchange can be found in The Dubai Mall, Mirdif City Centre and City Centre Deira.

Everything You Need For An Epic Birthday (Boat) Party

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I’m a firm believer that if you love your outfit, your birthday just kind of comes together around it. It’s a philosophy I have about life in general, but on your birthday the stakes are obviously far higher than usual. I remember having a distinctly average birthday cake at around the age of 5, but giving zero f*cks because I knew I looked completely badass in a pink metallic ra-ra skirt embellished with a giant black silk rose. Lesson learned.

Life is only marginally more complicated nowadays, although there are still a few key components you need to get spot on aside from a sweet outfit. Friends that encourage raucousness, for example, and a playlist made up almost entirely of Sean Paul tracks. Here are my tips for everything you need to make sure you have a banger of a party… on a boat, Dubai-style, or just gadding about Soho making merry in the sunshine…

A swimsuit from Private Party.

Private Party Birthday Suit Swimsuit

(Or a dress from Self Portrait).

Self Portrait Lace Dress

Sunglasses from Taylor Morris.Taylor Morris sunglasses Olivia Phillips

An inflatable unicorn from Needles & Notion.Needles & Notion inflatable unicorn

A cake from Rubab Suri.

Ruby Suri birthday cake Olivia Phillips

Some balloons from Party Camel.

Olivia Phillips Birthday party balloons

Clip-in extensions from Beauty By Edge.

Olivia Phillips party